Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday vowed that next year’s presidential election will be “free”, “safe” and “transparent” as he marked the anniversary of the country’s return to democracy.
“I know many of us are concerned with the rise in insecurity due to terrorist activities in parts of the country. As a government, we are working hard to contain and address these challenges and ensure that the 2023 general elections are safe,” Buhari said in a televised address.
“I am also promising you a free, fair and transparent electoral process,” he said.
“Fellow Nigerians, your right to choose your government will be preserved and protected.”
With the presidential campaign officially launched, and the main parties having nominated their candidate, the head of state issued an appeal for unity.
“We must sustain this mature attitude to campaigning and ultimately, voting. We must never see it as a ‘do or die’ affair. We must all remember democracy is about the will of the majority. There must be winners and losers,” Buhari said marking Democracy Day.
After years of military dictatorships, Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 even though insecurity, extreme poverty and endemic corruption persist.
The country has for more than a decade endured a jihadist insurgency in the northeast, criminal gangs in the northwest and centre as well as separatist unrest in the southeast.
Africa’s largest economy, weakened by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, is now feeling the pinch from the Ukraine war, which has sent fuel and food prices soaring across the continent.
Former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu and former vice president Atiku Abubakar were nominated as candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) respectively.
The two men are highly controversial: they are both in their 70s, wealthy and have been accused of corruption multiple times. Since returning to civilian rule, Nigeria has held six national elections that have often been marred by fraud, technical difficulties, violence and legal challenges.